Excelsior! Theatre Community Gives New York's Same-Sex Marriage Law a Standing Ovation

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27 Jun 2011

The Empire State Building was illuminated with rainbow-colored lights the weekend of June 24.
The Empire State Building was illuminated with rainbow-colored lights the weekend of June 24.

Playbill.com spread its net wide to gather response to the June 24 passage of same-sex marriage in New York State. Terrence McNally, Jordan Roth, Douglas Carter Beane and more shared their glee.

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Marriage equality became the law of the land in New York State late at night on June 24 when the State Senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, thrilling thousands of gays and lesbians — including those in the New York City theatre industry. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bill into law at 11:55 PM on Friday, less than two hours after the Senate passed the measure by a vote of 33-29. Couples interested in marrying will have to wait 30 days for the state to get its act together. Same-sex marriages will commence the week of July 25.

The membership of Actors' Equity Association, the union for actors and stage managers, includes not a few gays and lesbians. AEA's statement read, "Equity applauds Governor Cuomo and the New York State Senate for their courage and wisdom to enact the same-sex marriage bill. Equity has a long history of support for human rights for all individuals, including Marriage Equality for all Americans, and congratulates the New York State leaders for again demonstrating that New York is a beacon for justice and equality. This is an historic vote and it is especially poignant that the bill is signed into law on the eve of Gay Pride Weekend."

Playbill.com reached out to others in the industry — gay and lesbian performers, producers, writers, agents and more — to get their response to the life-changing new law.

Tom Kirdahy and Terrence McNally on their wedding day



Terrence McNally, the Tony Award-winning playwright and librettist, was married to producer Tom Kirdahy in April 2010 in Washington, DC, where same-sex marriage was legal. McNally told Playbill.com that on the night of June 24, "Tom Kirdahy and I held hands and watched the vote on television. The suspense was pretty intense. We had held hands and watched the unsuccessful vote two years ago, and neither of us wanted to go through that experience again: a public repudiation of who we were as a couple and a community. When the results were announced this time, we both let out a yell, held each other for a long time and then got very quiet. The enormity of what had just happened began to sink in. We both felt overwhelmed by the gravity and the enormous joy of the occasion. The dreams of many people had come true. Tom and I never thought we would be so grateful to so many Republicans. We all made history Friday night!

"Federal validation of gay marriage must and will happen next. In the meantime, our community must not forget the brave senators who risked everything for us. When they stand for re-election, we must stand with them. They deserve nothing less."

Kirdahy added, "The first person we called [after the bill passed] was my mother! We know my father and Terrence's parents were watching over us...but it was thrilling to share our joy with my mom, who was watching in her home. Terrence would say he has the best mother-in-law in the world, and I'd agree. We will marry again in New York. We'll let the government decide which one counts. We just love the idea of getting married in our home state. Mazel Tov! It's a profound experience...far more powerful than we ever imagined."

Chase Brock and Rob Berman
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Choreographer Chase Brock (Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark) and music director Rob Berman (Encores!) said in a joint email, "Watching the coverage on television at our home in Ulster County, we were extremely moved and satisfied by the passage of the bill, and were particularly encouraged by the final speeches of the Republican senators who supported the bill. We were married in San Francisco in 2008, one of the 18,000 gay couples married in California prior to the passage of Proposition 8. Since our marriage had already been legally recognized in New York State, we don't currently have plans to marry again in New York. However, this historic expansion of the civil rights of the LGBTQ community is meaningful to us on every level, and we're personally overjoyed for our many friends and colleagues in the Broadway community who will now be able to marry in our home state."

Ruth E. Sternberg and Liz Rosier

Liz Rosier, a talent agent with the Hartig-Hilepo Agency, whose longtime partner is The Public Theater's director of production Ruth E. Sternberg said, "We've been together for 18 years now, and when we've expressed to friends that we've wanted to marry when it's legal in the state in which we live, they've suggested we go to a state where it's already legal — and do it immediately. The response is: No, it's important to be legally married in the state in which we live. Yes, I feel totally committed to Ruth in a spiritual sense, she is the person I choose to spend the rest of my life with, and I don't need a wedding to prove that. We also share a home, a checking account, cars, bills, animals and household responsibilities. I feel that we are deserving of the legal benefits of marriage — those 1,300-plus rights that come along with it. The right for me to go into an emergency room with Ruth while she is being treated. The spousal right to be the person a doctor comes and speaks to after a procedure without having to explain who I am and what the nature of our relationship is. The right to legal protection should something happen to one of us — and if something were to happen if, say, family tried to come in and take possessions away.

"I personally feel savvy enough to handle all of these situations on my own and have never had trouble with them, but shouldn't I have those rights without worrying if I'm going to have to go to battle in order to hold my partner's hand while she's in the ER being treated? I also believe this is an enormous step societally, and I do believe by New York saying yes, a lot of young people who are afraid of who they are will feel that maybe they do belong. This is a big acknowledgement! A legal marriage may not be for everyone, but we should definitely have the choice, and now we do! I'm elated!"

Sternberg added, "I think that the passage of the same-sex marriage bill harkens back to the Civil Rights Act of the '60s, the big difference being that was a federal law, and gay rights are being left up to individual states. I believe that it will take time for our society to accept us, but to say that the law recognizes us and our right to legal union is a huge step in that direction. New York has made a huge step forward that needs to be celebrated!"

Continued...

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